Drones to deliver NHS supplies to Isle of Wight


Drones will be used to carry medical supplies from Hampshire to the Isle of Wight, the government has announced.

Grant Shapps, secretary of state for transport, said a planned trial of the technology would be brought forward and begin next week.

In March, the government announced funding for drone tests and a new air traffic control system.

But Mr Shapps said there was an “urgent need” for the trial to begin sooner than planned.

Ferry crossings to the Isle of Wight are currently reduced due to the spread of coronavirus.

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) can make the crossing to the Isle of Wight in about 10 minutes.

The government expects about four flights per day to be made, depending on the needs of the NHS.

A spokeswoman told the BBC that the first flights would carry PPE. However, in future the drone could deliver time-critical supplies such as blood and organs.

The trial will use a petrol-fuelled Windracers Ultra fixed-wing drone, capable of carrying 100kg for up to 1,000km (621 miles). However, initially the drone will not carry its maximum payload.

The Department for Transport said the drone would fly autonomously along a fixed route between Lee-on-Solent in Hampshire and Binstead on the Isle of Wight.

Two safety pilots – one at each airfield – will oversee each flight. However, the route has not yet been approved by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the trial cannot start without permission.

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